Wyoming, USDA sign $325,000 agreement for school meal programs

(Sina W./Pixabay)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — Wyoming and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service have signed an agreement for more than $325,000 to increase the purchase of nutritious, local foods for school meal programs.

The USDA announced the agreement Tuesday.

Through the Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program, the Wyoming Department of Education, or WDE, will purchase and distribute local and regional unprocessed or minimally processed foods and beverages to schools to serve children through the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program to improve child nutrition and build new relationships between schools and local farmers, the USDA said in a news release. Funding for the Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program is available through the Commodity Credit Corporation, a government corporation.

“Local or regional” producers or suppliers have headquarters in the same state or within 400 miles of the delivery destination, according to an FAQ the USDA posted. The food must travel no more than 400 miles between the farm or ranch where it originates and where it’s sold, or both the sale and the origin must occur in the same state. Foods that are unprocessed or minimally processed include fruits and vegetables, grain products, meats, beans, cheese and yogurt. Foods can be whole, cut, pureed, fresh, frozen, canned or dried. Baked goods and prepackaged or pre-cooked items that come ready-to-eat or that require no further preparation beyond heating, such as chicken nuggets, fish sticks and pre-made pizzas aren’t allowable.

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“Providing local, Wyoming grown agricultural products to Wyoming schools is good for everyone,” WDE Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Chad Auer said in the release. “As we all know, the best farmers and ranchers in the world are right here in Wyoming. I am proud to support this collaborative effort.”

The agreements will allow organizations to design food purchasing programs and establish partnerships with farmers and ranchers that best suit their local needs, accommodate environmental and climate conditions, account for seasonal harvests, improve supply chain resiliency and meet the needs of schools within their service area, the release said. The program will provide more opportunities for historically underserved producers and processors to sell their products, according to the release.

Campbell County School District has posted meals applications and menus here.